Transform your lazy Sunday by heading to Old City and immersing yourself in Time Passes, an unusual performance piece of Virgina Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Yes, it is actually eight hours long—a little over the length of the novel’s audiobook.
While the idea of being in the audience for such a long performance sounds daunting, Theater Arts Professor Brooke O’Harra, performing alongside her partner and fine arts professor Sharon Hayes, promises a thought–provoking experience for anybody who is willing to invest their time in, well, the study of time.
O’Harra and Hayes perform all the speaking parts and inner thoughts of the main characters—Mrs. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe—and their seven–year–old child performs as the children in the novel.
When asked about the purpose of putting on such a laborious performance, O’Harra momentarily struggled to find the words that would fully encompass the depth of her reasoning. “What is interesting about this book is that so much of what happens is internal to the women,” she finally said. “They’re experiencing this world and time in a super active, animated, conversational way, but it’s interior. So we’re dealing with gender, how women inhabit space over time, and how they hold power inside of their internal machinations of world–making."
If you plan to attend, you can look forward to an analysis of “how the women negotiate their relationships with men, their relationships to art, and their relationships to power.” A simple read of the book is enhanced by having “those pieces actually embodied and spoken,” which “pulls something out of the novel and fills the life of these women.”
It’s worth noting that it is free of charge—they do ask, however, for attendees to bring a potluck food item to share. Besides a plethora of free food and a coffee delivery every couple of hours, expect a relaxed seating arrangement of scattered chairs and risers to lie down on. The atmosphere is intended to be freeing, in that audience members can get up at any time and walk around the room. According to O’Harra, there will be “a bunch of activities” and “a huge art piece that is built across the floor.” A continuous, eight–hour recording of a tide will serve as a calming backdrop on a wall.
O’Harra and Hayes want the audience to interact with the book (copies of which will be lying around the room) and the performance. O’Harra said, “The space is changing and it’s like building an archive of your experience as you’re there.”
And having everyone in the same room for such an extensive period of time is a unique experiment itself.
“Something happens,” O’Harra said. “We’ve done it in New York and people were like, what? But after the third hour, they felt like, ‘I can just stay here for the rest of my life.’ There’s something happening just by being present together and experiencing a certain kind of time that isn’t sitting in a seat in an audience, but rather, being present to the experience.”
Some people eat, some people knit, some people sit and follow along with their own copy of the novel. Although people are often “super focused at first,” O’Harra said that over time, “they build a relationship” with the live performance and feel more open to searching for opportunities in the room for new perspectives.
Expect between 60 to 80 people in the room, but don’t expect everyone to come in with the same level of investment with the book. In fact, you don’t even have to have read To the Lighthouse to enjoy the performance.
“The experience for each and every person is literally going to be unique to your own relationship to the novel, to reading, and to gender,” O’Harra said. But, she adds, “It’s interesting asking people to commit to the whole eight hours, because you’re already inviting an audience that’s invested and has a willingness to just be there.”
If this sounds like you—and if you're interested in enjoying endless coffee and food while experiencing To the Lighthouse come to life—you can RSVP here.